JACKSON • The Mississippi Supreme Court has agreed to review the case of Joshua Clark, an Itawamba County man whose murder conviction was overturned last fall.

The Supreme Court last week granted petitions for both Clark and the state. It will now be up to the high court to decided whether to reinstate Clark’s conviction, order a new trail or drop the charges and set him free.

In 2016, the state accused Clark in the “Shaken Baby Syndrome” death of his 4-month-old daughter. The state’s medical expert, Dr. Karen Lakin, testified that in her opinion, the child had been violently shaken, causing a fatal brain injury. Clark was later convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In late October 2019, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in a split decision, ruling that Lakin did not provide supporting materials for her findings and her testimony should not have been allowed. They remanded the case back to circuit court for a new trial. How much, if any, of Lakin’s testimony can be admitted in a future trail will be decided by the new judge.

In making their decision, Mississippi’s highest court justices will consider arguments from both sides.

Clark and his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, argue that new medical science has disproved Shaken Baby Syndrome, saying without that argument, the state has no case and Clark should be released from prison to await a new trial or all charges should be dropped.

“The only issue worthy of review by (the supreme court) is whether the state should be allowed to have a second trial to produce scientific evidence which it failed to produce at the first trial,” Waide wrote in his petition.

The state says the Court of Appeals was wrong to throw out the state’s expert witness testimony about Shaken Baby Syndrome and asks the Supreme Court to reinstate Clark’s conviction.

Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney General Scott Stuart argues that if the Court of Appeals ruling is allowed to stand and become precedent, it could cause problems and set new higher standards for expert witness testimony.

“(The ruling will) take away the discretion to admit or exclude expert testimony from the trial judges of this state,” Stuart wrote.

The Supreme Court has not issued any time frame on when it will take up the case. As part of the review, the high court could look at Clark’s other arguments that the Court of Appeals did not consider in their reversal ruling.

Despite his conviction being overturned, Clark will likely remain in state prison until the Mississippi Supreme Court hands down its final ruling. In a January bond hearing, Waide argued Clark should be released.

Circuit Court Judge Kelly Mims, who took over the case following the retirement of Judge Thomas Gardner, did not agree. Mims said that since the case was still being appealed, Clark was still technically a convicted murderer and ordered him to remain in prison.

Clark has been in jail or prison for 12 years. He was originally charged with capital murder following the January 2008 death of Kylie Clark. During his first trial in 2010, he accepted a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to depraved heart murder and was sentenced to life in prison. On direct appeal, that plea was vacated by Judge Gardner on the grounds of ineffective counsel. Gardner also presided over the second trial.

william.moore@journalinc.com

Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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